October 19 , 2002

M'sia Denies Author's Claim That Neighbouring Govt's
Intelligence Provided Info

KOTA KINABALU, Oct 19 (Bernama) -- Malaysia has debunked claims by Sri Lankan author Rohan Gunaratna that a neighbouring government's intelligence agency had provided him information linking the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government to the al-Qaeda terrorist movement.
In a statement issued to Bernama Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Malaysian intelligence agencies had confirmed that they had not received any such information linking Malaysian parties to the al-Qaeda as claimed by Gunaratna in his book, "Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror".
Abdullah said Malaysia had serious doubts about the integrity and accuracy of the information used by Gunaratna in his book.
Abdullah said Malaysia's only involvement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was when the country was invited by both the Philippine government and the MILF to mediate in peace negotiations between them.
"The Barisan Nasional as a party was not involved," he said.
Gunaratna, who has come under severe criticism from BN leaders and other Malaysians for his unfounded claims, has alleged that the BN had ideological and political links to the MILF which, in turn, had links to the al-Qaeda terrorist group.
However, in a subsequent interview over Singapore television, after being criticised by Malaysia over his claims, Gunaratna changed his views to say that there was a link "between MILF operatives and a few individuals in the Barisan parties."
He claimed in a Malay Mail report that he believed "Malaysian and Indonesian political parties had been infiltrated by the extremist organisation."
In his statement, Abdullah said during the Sipadan hostage crisis in which the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf terrorist group had kidnapped 21 people, including Malaysians and foreign tourists, from the resort island off Sabah and held them for ransom in Mindanao, "a few individual members of Barisan Nasional component parties had been in contact with the Abu Sayyaf to seek the release of the hostages."
However, there was no link whatsoever between the BN and the Abu Sayyaf apart from trying to seek the release of the hostages, he said.
Gunaratna, who has passed himself off as a terrorism expert, has been severely criticised in the local media which has questioned his credentials.
The Berita Harian reported Saturday that Gunaratna had been criticised previously by the US-based Vermont Independent Media Centre for "inaccuracy and not being credible."
The Berita Harian, which listed a series of alleged inconsistencies in Gunaratna's public statements in Australia and other parts of the world, said the Vermont Institute made its conclusions on Gunaratna after studying his comments and writings from August 1997 until this year.
Gunaratna has remained adamant and sticks to his claim that he has proof of links between the Malaysian groups and al-Qaeda. However, since the controversy erupted, he has not been able to provide any such evidence.